As a certified introvert living alone for the past 20 years I have read a lot of books, even more after moving to Cuenca seven years ago and buying a Kindle. It is so nice to see a title, want it, and within a minute or two, have it. I have quite often read a book that I think others would like but I have never made the effort to tell others about it.
I turned 89 recently and so, chronologically, I am an old man, with a retirement income that comfortably meets my modest needs. My health is basically good although subject to the ups and downs that arrive with age. I am now very comfortable in Cuenca and an ongoing eye issue which has slowed my activities should be resolved shortly, all of which has lead to a good deal of time spent thinking about how I am going to live my life now.
Then, a column I regularly read recommended a new book by a favorite author of mine, On The Brink of Everything by Parker J. Palmer, discussing this very issue. So I read it, loved it, and here comes the book review.
This is not a “how to” manual with a bunch of rules and practices to help you into your old age — or generalized assumptions about old age. I would characterize it as reflections on life and living which will be helpful for anyone, no matter thei age.
For instance: “True self is the self with which we arrive on earth, the self that simply wants us to be who we were born to be. True self tells us who we are, where we are planted in the ecosystem of life, what “right action” looks like for us, and how we can grow more fully into our own potentials.”
On the other hand, this quote directly relates to the issue: “We need to reframe aging as a passage of discovery and engagement, not decline and inaction.” Instead of mourning your losses, look at this period as a time to explore your possibilities for changing to fit your new reality, to feel free to poke around your mind and find aspects of yourself that you were not aware of, to find new activities that are interesting to you. Or perhaps this will appeal to you: “Old is just another word for nothing left to lose.”
If we want to live by values of love, truth and justice the question for each of us is: “Was I faithful to my gifts and to the needs I saw around me, offering the world the best I had.” This means not being attached to results, the bugaboo of our egos wanting to achieve quantifiable results that can be seen and acknowledged. The important thing is to do the act, understanding and not caring that you may never know the effect it has.
“When I’m with elders who have a mind-and-heart connection with the world beyond their walls, I find their vitality contagious, even if they are confined to their homes.” The externalities may batter you but staying alive inside while you are dealing with them is just as important and that aliveness is a foundation for your life.
“Wholeness is the goal, but wholeness does not mean perfection. It means embracing brokenness as an integral part of life.” Everything that happens to you is a necessary part of your life. Instead of being so quick to judge an event as bad look at it more neutrally as something to deal with and very often bringing a lesson for you.
“Paradox, the notion that life’s most important realities often take the form of both-ands rather than either-ors.” Don’t let yourself believe that your reality is the only one.
A wonderful, thoughtful book that can help you see that living the best life you can is important, and although your death will be an important event for those who know you, for you it is simply the last stop of your human journey.